How Putin’s kill squads roam free across Europe with hitmen in Spain, chemical attacks in UK and executions in Germany

How Putin’s kill squads roam free across Europe with hitmen in Spain, chemical attacks in UK and executions in Germany

FROM London hotels to Berlin parks and onto Benidorm – there is a bloodstained trail of assassinations across Europe that leads straight back to the Kremlin.

Vladimir Putin relishes in revenge no matter how cold it is served as long as so-called “traitors” always meet their grisly end, experts told The Sun.

GettyVladimir Putin has a shameless track record of ordering killings on foreign soil[/caption]

APDefected Russian pilot Maxim Kuzminov’s body was found riddled with bullets in Spain last week[/caption]

ITVX/ITV STUDIOSDefected Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko’s tea was laced with radioactive poison in London in 2006[/caption]

APThe Salisbury poisonings in 2018 when Russian agents tried to poison Sergei Skripal and his daughter[/caption]

Whether it is elaborate poisonings or a straight up bullet to the head, the Russian tyrant, 71, has a shameless track record of using professional kill-squads to do his brutal bidding outside of his borders.

But increasingly he doesn’t seem to give a damn about who knows.

And it’s been quite a week for the ageing Russian leader.

His greatest political foe Alexei Navalny was found dead inside his Arctic gulag only days after a Russian defected chopper pilot’s bullet-ridden body was found in Spain.

Captain Maxim Kuzminov, 28, was shot dead on February 13 in a a garage in Alicante, near Benidorm.

He has been living under false identity since his high-profile defection to Ukraine with an Mi-8 attack helicopter.

His killing came only months after Moscow blasted him as a traitor and promised to liquidate him and bore all the hallmarks of Russia’s intelligence services.

The message is – we will find you and we will kill you

Prof Mark Galleotti

Police sources have now revealed that the ammunition used to kill him was distinctively Russian – a move believed to have been intended as a chilling “calling card.”

A report claims the same sinister secret services and mafia-linked cells were likely behind the slaying of a Russian family in Spain – one of the high-profile mysterious tycoon death cases linked to Putin’s war

Oligarch Sergey Protosenya, 55, was found hanged after allegedly axing to death his wife Natalia, 53, and their teenage daughter, Maria, as they slept at their luxury villa on the Costa Brava.

The triple killing has long assumed to have been staged.

Dr Kristian Gustafson, an intelligence expert from Brunel University, told The Sun that Russia is no longer acting with constraint.

“Russians have a very long history of offing defectors and troublemakers abroad as far back as the 1700s.”

But since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he said, “the rules of the intelligence game have changed”.

“Russia does not feel like it has a lot to lose, but a lot to gain for intimidating any defectors, so why not get rid of them now?

“If I were a Russian defector in Europe right now, I would be screaming for improved security.”

Professor Mark Galeotti, a senior fellow at RUSI who specialises in Russian intelligence services, said the message behind Kuzminov’s killing was clear.

“Putin has always said that with enemies you fight and may reach an agreement but there is nothing you can do with traitors except wipe them out,” he told The Sun.

“For Russia, there is a theatre to assassination. Often the purpose is not to kill an individual but to send a message.

“The message is that if you defect it doesn’t matter where you go or what false ID they give you, we will find you and we will kill you.”

Putin, he argued, would like to manifest the idea that Kremlin assassins move freely across Europe – whether or not this is strictly true.

Galleotti believes that Kuzminov’s murder was likely outsourced to Russian organised crime, which he said has a strong presence across Spain as well as other parts of central and eastern Europe.

The use of mafia gangsters means the Kremlin “can deny it all with a smirk and knowing wink as they still want everyone to know what they did,” he said.

Defectors such as Kazminov, he said, are the ones Putin will “spend significant resources going after and happily face the diplomatic backlash for.”

ReutersThe garage where Kuzminov was shot dead over six times with what are reported to be Russian bullets[/caption]

ReutersThe car his killers allegedly used to flee before setting on fire[/caption]

Daylight murder

Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, a former Chechen military commander, was shot and killed in broad daylight in Berlin’s Kleiner Tiergarten park in August, 2019.

German authorities identified the killer to be Russian national Vadim Krasikov, 59, and later ruled that he acted on orders from Russia’s security services.

The Chechen dissident had led an anti-Russian militia in the early 2000s and already survived multiple assassination attempts.

In the lead up to the hit job, Putin had blasted Khangoshvili as a “cruel and bloodthirsty person” and accused him of being involved in the 2010 Moscow metro bombings that killed 98.

His murder was first known Moscow-ordered assassination in Germany since the end of the Cold War.

Alexander Litvinenko

One of the most high-profile Kremlin-ordered killings on foreign soil was the poisoning of defected Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

The British naturalised-defector and former officer for Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) had fled to the UK in 2000 with his family.

Known as Putin’s “enemy number one”, he believes he was safe on UK soil – but the Kremlin’s hit squad did not appear to fear the diplomatic repercussions.

While staying at a London hotel in November 2006, Litvinenko was served tea laced with a radioactive substance, polonium-210.

His slow and agonising death was splashed across newspapers and TVs around the world.

A UK-led inquiry into his death concluded he was assassinated by the FSB and that Putin had “a level of approval for the killing”.

In September 2021, a European court also ruled that the Kremlin had murdered the former spy.

Chechen dissident Zelimkhan Khangoshvili was shot dead in Berlin in 2014 in a crime that shocked GermanyRex

AFPGermany ruled that he was killed on orders from the Kremlin[/caption]

APLitvinenko was known as Putin’s ‘enemy number one’ after defecting to the UK[/caption]

He died three weeks after drinking the tea laced with polonium

Salisbury poisonings

Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal was poisoned by the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in his adopted hometown of Salisbury in March 2018.

The botched assassination, which also targeted Skripal’s daughter Yulia, sparked a major diplomatic row between the UK and Russia.

Marking the first use of a nevge agent in a European city since the start of the war, the approval for such an attack would have had to come from the very top.

It would ultimately cause the death of a British citizen, the hospitalisation of several others and leave the sleep British country traumatised long after.

The UK, the US and 22 other western governments retaliated by expelling more than 100 Russian diplomats – helping to damage Russian intelligence across the West.

It is believed that Skripal has now left the UK and is living under a new identity.

Threat to London

Prof Galleoti told The Sun that despite the Litveninko murder, London is “perversely protected”.

London, which is mockingly called Londongrad in reference to the capital becoming a hub for Russian oligarch’s money, is usually kept clear of Moscow-sanctioned murder, he said.

“The big fish in the Russian economic system need to access the banks of London and really do not want to see ‘wet work’ [murder or assassination] carried out in the capital.”

Galeotti argued that the gunning down of Russian banker German Gorbuntsov as he entered his luxury home on the Isle of Dogs in March 2012 led to “great furore among the Russian underworld”.

Gorbuntsov survived, but barely.

However, former British army general Richard Barrons previously warned The Sun that the threat of Russian agents in the UK was far greater now than in the Cold War.

The retired Commander of Joint Forces said: “Russia thinks it can get away with it. Russia doesn’t play by any rules we bind ourselves to.

“We talk lots about cyber-attacks, misinformation, but spies like this exist in numbers and are prepared to do harm,” added the former Commander of Joint Forces Command.

Referring to the trio of alleged Bulgarians working for Russia’s intelligence services arrested in February, 2023 and charged in August.

“We should see this as just one episode and one small part of what we know as an expanding, serious threat of Russian espionage directed at the UK and all of us.”

He said it was a warning that for a decade, the accused spies “were working entirely covertly until they were caught”.

Fighting Putin’s death squads

Dr Gustafson wants Europe to wake up to the threat posed by a Russia that no longer fears any diplomatic outrage towards their deadly operations overseas.

The intelligence expert argued that GRU are likely behind every attempted assassination, even if they are lurking in the background at an arms-length.

“GRU don’t care, they are brutal.

“They will send meatheads out on one-way trip with a cover just thick enough to get into Europe and from there they can move around.

“There are GRU squads trying to blow up armament factors in Slovakia, Bulgaria – threatening to defence procurement and production across Europe.”

He continued: “Russians are on a war footing, we aren’t. People are waking up slowly to the threat but there is still a lot of vulnerability.

“We need to be prepared to prevent the Russians from behaving like this by tightening security and reinforcing counter-intelligence capacities.”

However, Dr Stephen Hall, an assistant professor in Russian and Post-Soviet Politics at University of Bath, said it is a tricky business trying to rein in the mechanisms Putin uses to carry out revenge on his enemies.

He too argued that Western governments must be better at working together and strengthening Interpol to crack down on Russian organised crime.

However, he said that GRU and its Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) are often “one step ahead of Western intelligence services.

“It is a challenge and it is difficult, but certainly there has to be a more coordinated approach across Europe in dealing with it.”

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was attacked with Novichok alongside his daughter YuliaRex

ReutersThe two Russian agents, Alexander Mishkin and Anatoliy Chepiga, are accused committing the attack[/caption]

PAThe accused assassins walking around Salisbury[/caption]

Russian banker German Gorbuntsov was gunned down outside his home in London in 2012

Leave a comment

Send a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *